Oct 012010

To win games, and ultimately championships, teams must be able to stop the run and pressure the passer, which is why defensive line talent is so important. Much like the 2010 draft class offered defensive line depth, the list of front four prospects for 2011 is also deep. The trickledown effect of a solid defensive line can be immense, including helping defensive backs in coverage.

More and more, teams are looking for linemen who thrive in a 3-4 scheme. In 2001, only one team played a 3-4. In 2007, more than 10 teams used the 3-4 as one of their defenses. This year, the figure has jumped to about 16, with the Washington Redskins among the teams having made the switch. The 12 teams that played in the last six Super Bowls have all had very good defensive lines that produced lots of sacks. Only four of the 12 had less than 40 sacks (2006 and 2009 Colts, 2008 Cardinals and 2009 Saints). The 2007 Giants and 2008 Steelers each had over 50 sacks during the regular season.

For defensive ends, size and long arms are needed on the strongside, while speed is a key trait on the weakside. Defensive ends who can apply pressure from the quarterback’s blindside (Minnesota’s Jared Allen) are a real asset.

Here are my top five Junior and Senior defensive end prospects.

5.  Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson, 6,4″, 275 lbs. Junior.

Two years ago, Da’Quan Bowers  signed as Clemson’s top rated recruit in history. After enrolling into Clemson a semester early, Bowers found himself making an immediate impact in front of the Death Valley faithful. While his numbers in the last two seasons may be a bit disappointing to some, Bowers’ potential stands at a first round caliber for most NFL teams. He spends most of his free time on weekends in the off-season playing guitar in his father’s Gospel band, the “Legendary Singing Stars.” I’m very impressed with his 4.64 40 yard dash.

4. Allen Bailey, Miami (The U), 6,4″, 288 lbs, Senior.

Allen Bailey has not spent much time at defensive tackle, but that has not stopped NFL scouts from drooling over his potential. As a freshman in 2007 he spent most of his time on special teams and played just two downs as a linebacker. In 2008 he started four games at defensive end. However, he would often move to the interior of the line during third down situations. He ended his sophomore campaign with 36 tackles, 9.0 tackles-for-loss and a team high 5.0 sacks. His potential and versatility led to high expectations heading into 2009; Bailey did not disappoint. Bailey’s tackle numbers slipped to 32 during the regular season, but he ended up with 11.0 tackles-for-loss and 7.0 sacks, leading the Hurricanes in both categories. At 6-4 and 288 pounds, Bailey is a fine pass rusher and could be a good tackle in the NFL if he adds some weight. His versatility is a plus, but NFL teams will want him to be either an end or a tackle. For me his best position is the 5 technique defensive end position. I like Hayward and Clayborn in that role also.  Bailey runs a 4.79 – 40.

3. Robert Quinn, North Carolina, 6,5″, 268 lbs, Junior.

Robert Quinn is expected to be the next great pass rusher out of North Carolina since Julius Peppers.  Quinn is a super athletic defensive end that possesses all the physical skills to take over games in the NFL.  Quinn has a rare initial burst off the line which allows him to get into the opponents backfield.  Quinn’s quick burst and overall speed makes him a target for double teams.  However, he has developed several pass rush moves that allow him to get around those double teams.  His 6 forced fumbles last season only enhance his playmaking ability.  Quinn makes his living in the offensive backfield. In high school, he was told he had a brain tumor. Luckily, it was benign and they performed successful surgery to remove it. Quinn hasn’t been slowed by it and there have been no ill effects from it either. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops with him, however. He’s been involved with the talk about ongoing investigations into North Carolina players who might’ve received improper benefits. Right now, it’s too early to tell if it’ll have any affect on his draft status. Either way, there’s a good chance he’ll declare early for the 2011 draft.

2. Cameron Hayward, Ohio state, 6,5″, 285 lbs, Senior.

Cameron Heyward has football in his blood. His father was an NFL running back and his step father was a great college player. Heyward has proven himself to be very versatile for the Buckeyes during his career. He has started games at both defensive end and defensive tackle, with equal success at each position. He became a starter early in his freshman season, finishing with 33 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and forcing a fumble. He followed that up with a solid sophomore campaign where he registered 36 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and forced another fumble. As a junior in 2009, Heyward tallied 46 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks for the Buckeyes. He could play left end in a 4-3 alignment, he can play defensive end in a 3-4 defense, and would also fit well as a defensive tackle in a cover 2 defense. If Heyward had declared, he could have slipped into the late first round, or early in round two. Heyward decided to return to Ohio State for his senior season in an attempt to vault himself higher into the first round in 2011.

1. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa, 6,3″, 285 lbs, Senior.

Adrian Clayborn enjoyed a breakout season last year for the Iowa Hawkeyes.  Clayborn is a quick and athletic defensive end.  He utilizes his speed and athleticism to generate pressure on opposing offenses.  Clayborn does a great job at keeping offensive lineman’s hands off of him which allows him to use his speed to get to the quarterback.  In the situations where a lineman is able to get position, Clayborn is able to use a wide array of pass rush moves.  The thing that makes Clayborn special is his high motor.  He never quits on a play which causes trouble for offenses. He put up 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season. He also showed up on the big stage, helping Iowa beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Clayborn has all the traits to be a very good player and is an outstanding person. He should go in the top 10 of the 2011 draft. I think he could go 1st overall with his talent. He’s my favourite defensive end at the moment.

Rhodri Jones.

Tredegar, Wales, United Kingdom.

Rhodri Jones

Rhodri Jones was last on location in California, covering Superbowl 50 for us here at sportcitychefs.com. Over the past six years, Rhodri has established himself as a great writer and has entertained the world with his supreme sports knowledge and confident, laid back style with our NFL draft and weekly NFL radio shows during the season. He's appeared on national broadcasts both in the U.S and U.K and it won't be long before we see much more from him. His accent and knowledge combination is niche in the industry at the highest level and it really sets him apart. Rhodri' talents truly just begin there. In 2012, during one of his adventures here in the United States, Rhodri got his foot in the door at GQ magazine as a potential contributing writer and his journalistic skills are second to none. His current featured work is about the great Dianne Halloway and her amazing men's footwear company '' The Halloway collection ''. Rhodri was schooled in the Welsh language and is a passionate Welsh-man. As a writer here at Sport city, Rhodri has given us many of his great articles and we dare you not to be inspired when you read them. In 2013, Rhodri was a vital part in the creation of the movie ''The Last Fall''. A film created and directed by former NFL wide receiver Matthew A Cherry through his production company in Los Angeles. When asked his inspirations in life, Rhodri started with his family and in particular his mother who he said was '' truly one of a kind and the most courageous but kindest person he'd ever known ''. She's no doubt a big reason behind Rhodri's drive and determination. In the sports industry he said, as a child he would attempt to emulate the style of Wales international rugby center Scott Gibbs and did so on the field until a serious injury took his dream away. Never the less, Rhodri returned to the field 4 years later and then to the grid-iron in South Wales after fighting to recover from the serious back injury that held him back. In the NFL, players like Jim Brown, John Lynch, Payton Manning, Ray Lewis, Walter Payton, Qadry Ismail, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Oher, Hines Ward,Troy Polamalu, the late Junior Seau, Pat Tillman, Steve McNair and many others both current and past have all been massively inspirational to Rhodri during his life and a huge reason behind his passion for the game. In the UK sports media industry he gives much love and respect to Sky Sports NFL, C4 NFL, BBC sports and the likes of Nat Coombs, Mike Carlson, Kevin Cadle, Neil Raynolds and Nick Halling for their support, motivation and for making his name known to fans in the UK by reading his messages and tweets out live to the nation each week on their live NFL shows. We'd imagine they'd be equally grateful to Rhodri for his depth of knowledge and his unique views. Rhodri has been a great ambassador for us at London's Wembley stadium since the NFL introduced it's 'International series ' games there. Rhodri has visited the United States many times and has covered games in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Oakland and Indianapolis and has attended many more as a fan in both the pro and college game, bringing many players and coaches to us here at sport city. Rhodri started out with us here through his great friend Tyrone 'TP Tymeless' Powell. They came in together after TP left a company in New York and brought his loyal friend with him. Rhodri was known to NFL fans in America at this point through his correspondents on NFL.com with the likes of current NFL experts, coaches and players like Gil Brandt, Pat Kirwin, Phil Simms, Bill Parcells, Brian Billick, Teddy Bruschi, Ray Maualuga and Steve Wyche to name just a few. Hopefully all will be re-united at Superbowl 50 so stay tuned for posts and insight from our very own Rhodri Jones here on sportcitychefs.com.

  3 Responses to “A LOOK AHEAD : Defensive Ends”

  1. I’m loving all of these columns Rhodri. And from watching the game weekly I see your right about it all also. Very impressive stuff.

  2. For me Rhodri, Clayborn does not offer enough of a pass rush to be the #1 DE prospect.Yes I love him as a player and love his motor, but he is much more suited for a 3-4 front than a 4-3 front in my opinion.If Quinn would not have had so many off the field issues he would clearly be the #1 guy here.Also love Bowers ability as long as he continues to play with consistance.

  3. I like that you showed the top because one day I will be at the top so now I know more of what it takes.

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